The ongoing Electoral Area F (Errington, Coombs, & Hilliers) Official Community Plan Review has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inability of the Regional District of Nanaimo to hold public engagements, a crucial element of the review, without compromising the physical distancing and gathering protocols issued by federal and provincial health authorities, is the biggest concern.
The first round of public engagements was completed in March with the next round slated to take place in June. RDN staff has looked into a couple of options on the best way to proceed with the public engagement without violating the pandemic restrictions.
Online tools, by phone and paper base methods were considered but staff indicated there may not be enough time to prepare alternative methods and put it in place.
Staff instead recommended limited in-person gatherings at the Electoral Areas Services Committee meeting on Tuesday (May 12). But directors, however, chose to suspend the project until restrictions on gatherings and physcial distancing are lifted. This will be presented to the RDN for final approval.
• A report on the first round of public engagements that include community pop-ups, information meetings with town hall, surveys on the current OCP community values, challenges and opportunities in Electoral Area F was presented to the Electoral Areas Services Committee.
The report showed that from February to March, there were 335 residents who attended events and provided feedback and input. As well, there were more than a thousand residents and stakeholders visited the project website, reviewed materials and the project video.
Among the comments received is for a low level of regulation and freedom to undertake a variety of uses on a rural property, which is highly valued. But there is support for additional regulation to protect the environment, clean up unsightly properties, and address unhealthy or unsafe living conditions.
Housing affordability is a significant concern with suggested opportunities that include allowing all dwelling a suites to be stratified, and permit RVs to be used as dwellings.
Protecting the environment is another concern calling for the protection of the watershed for drinking water and for wildlife values.
There’s also suport for increased services and businesses in Area F to reduce travel time and increase community self-efficiency as long as residential areas are not negatively impacted by incompatible land uses. There are others, however, that see Area F as primarily a residential area and do not see a need for this kind of growth.